Merlin's second annual bourbon tour.

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Merlin's second annual bourbon tour.

Unread postby merlin87 » Fri May 09, 2008 6:14 am

Well, this year’s tour (my second) was very educational. I learned a little something from each of the distilleries I visited. But, the most important thing I learned was to plan the tours. We went to Four Roses first, then to Wild Turkey and back to the hotel in Bardstown on day one. Day two, we went to Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve and Makers Mark. We should have hit Makers Mark on day one, and maybe Heaven Hill, then day two hit Woodford, Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey and Four Roses. Any way, live and learn, I’ll know next year.

Day One:
Four Roses: This tour is a great one. I enjoyed it last year and this year was just as good. A tasting of the two premium Bourbons were offered. Four Roses is among my favorite Bourbons.

Wild Turkey: I was warned this was not a good tour, which is absolutely NOT true. My guess is the person who told me this, confused this tour with Jim Beam (see below). It is a great tour, and one, which will be on next year’s itinerary for certain.

Dinner at Old Talbott Tavern rounded out the day. It was a wee bit pricey, but tasty. Their bourbon selection was quite impressive. Then back to the hotel to take pain meds and muscle relaxers to settle my bad hip/back down. Let me tell you, if you have problems walking, these tours will take their toll.

Day Two:
Woodford Reserve: Excellent tour! This is easily the most beautiful of the distilleries. They do many things the old fashion way, which gives it a certain charm. I enjoyed the tour, but their bourbon isn’t on my list of favorites. There was a tasting at the end.

Buffalo Trace: This was my first year to visit, and I will go back next year. I thoroughly enjoyed the personal touch they can afford to give because of their small size. A tasting was offered at the end of the tour. The Buffalo Trace Bourbon is okay, but not to my liking, surprisingly the Vodka was excellent (who would’ve thought…). I wish you could pick up more of their fine products at the distillery, but other than that the tour was my second favorite of the week, which leads me to the crown of the tour…

Makers Mark: What can I say? MM remains my favorite bourbon and my favorite tour. The newly revamped “gift shop” is awesome. The tour really rocks, but I found there is a LOT of variation of tours depending on who takes you on the tour. There were things I mentioned to my friend, which they never mentioned on the tour. They now offer a tasting at the end, which is a change from last year. I really enjoyed getting to dip my own bottle.

Dinner at Bearnos, the pizza was excellent, but the service and ambient music sucked, which put a bad flavor to the visit. We had to chase down the bartender to get our check. Next year, if I go back, I will get the pie to go.

Back to the hotel for drugs and a cigar. A shot of Elijah Craig 18 year old helped to ease the pain of the day.

Day Three:
Off to Jim Beam, not much of a tour, a quick movie and they point out the way for your self-guided tour. They seem to want you to know more about the barrels than the bourbon going into them. They did offer a tasting at the end, which did prompt m to score a bottle of Bookers.

The final stop is Heaven Hills. Once again, not much of a tour, you start with a movie, then a walk to the barrelhouse. This is another tour that is greatly influenced by the tour guide you draw. Last year, the guide gave an account of the fire in great detail, this year; I had to draw out what little info we got for the sake of my traveling companion. The Heritage Center makes this a trip worth taking. I enjoyed it this year, as I did last year. There was a tasting at the end, and this is the only tour that emphasizes the importance of adding a little water to the bourbon.

After Heaven Hills, a quick meal at Kurtz then back to Alabama. Overall, I had a great vacation. There are a few observations I would like to make. Three different distilleries claimed to be the oldest continuously running distillery in Kentucky. Also, the history of the charred barrels is presented as an accidental fire at one distillery, while at another it was reported to be a way of removing the taste of a previously shipped item (fish was mentioned). Between now and next years trip, I will pick up a few books and read them, and I am certain this will add to the enjoyment of the tours.
I have taken more good from alcohol than it has taken from me.
-Winston Churchill

Johnny C. Barrett
Merlin87@earthling.net
http://homepages.otelco.net/merlin
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Unread postby cowdery » Fri May 09, 2008 4:58 pm

Nice report. It's always interesting to hear how other people experience their visits. You mentioned about the luck-of-the-draw with tour guides. I think that's why some people have reported back experiences at Wild Turkey.

With Heaven Hill, unless that's the only visitors center you are going to visit, I would advise people to skip the "tour" and just enjoy the Bourbon Heritage Center, which is plenty worthwhile all by itself.

By the way, both Jim Beam and Wild Turkey are making major changes to their visitor experience. Beam is promising a tour that will include the full production process. I know Turkey will be building a completely new visitors center, but I'm not sure what else they're doing.
- Chuck Cowdery

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Unread postby Mark » Fri May 09, 2008 5:15 pm

Thanks also for sharing your experiences Johnny. I have to agree with you on something not bourbon related but rather vodka related and yes, BT's Rain Vodka is actually pretty darn good huh? For the price I have gotten people on to it who are vodka people and they were impressed with it as well. You can smell a bit of the corn in it compared to a 'regular' vodka but amazingly it is not present in the taste at all. I'm not into vodka but once me and some friends were drinking grey goose and I was shocked to hear what it costs... That's when I went and got the rain and made them believers! :lol:
-=_Mark_=-
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Unread postby merlin87 » Fri May 09, 2008 9:38 pm

It was fun for certain. I think the advice on the Heritage Center is right on. The Center is worth the time for even without a tour. Also glad to hear about Beam, I will possibly go back next year, just to see how they have done. It is only 12 miles from Bardstown (my default place to stay), so a trip over is not a strain to the time at all.

Wild Turkey, while no where near the best tour, was not bad. I also look forward to seeing what they do.

Thanks for the feedback, especially from two such respected members!

I need to pick up some books , for sure, as well as research this site for the info it contains.

Oddly enough, a bud of mine is cleaning out his liquor cabinet, so I picked up some rum which I enjoy today. My own cabinet is now respectable, after the trip and a few purchases for him.
I have taken more good from alcohol than it has taken from me.
-Winston Churchill

Johnny C. Barrett
Merlin87@earthling.net
http://homepages.otelco.net/merlin
(100% Microsoft free WEBsite)
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